Chavez says Obama an 'ignoramus'


Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez said today his US counterpart Barack Obama was at best an "ignoramus" for saying the socialist leader exported terrorism and obstructed progress in Latin America.

"He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism: the least I can say is that he's a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality," said Mr Chavez, who heads a group of left-wing Latin American leaders opposed to the US influence in the region.

Mr Chavez said Mr Obama's comments had made him change his mind about sending a new ambassador to Washington, after he withdrew the previous envoy in a dispute last year with the Bush administration in which he also expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela.

"When I saw Obama saying what he said, I put the decision back in the drawer; let's wait and see," Mr Chavez said on his weekly television show, adding he had wanted to send a new ambassador to improve relations with the United States after the departure of George W. Bush as president.

In a January interview with Spanish-language US network Univision, Mr Obama said Mr Chavez had hindered progress in Latin America, accusing him of exporting terrorist activities and supporting Colombian guerrillas.

"My, what ignorance; the real obstacle to development in Latin America has been the empire that you today preside over," said Mr Chavez, who is a fierce critic of US foreign policy.

In the 20th century the United States supported several armed movements and coups in Latin America. Mr Chavez says Washington had a hand in a short-lived putsch against him in 2002, which was initially welcomed by US officials.

Mr Chavez and Mr Obama will both attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago next month. It is not known whether they will meet.

Most of Opec nation Venezuela's export income comes from oil it sells to the United States, but Mr Chavez has built stronger ties with countries such as China in an attempt to reduce dependence on his northern neighbour.

Mr Chavez expelled its US ambassador in September in a dispute over U.S. activities in his ally Bolivia, which also expelled its US ambassador. Ecuador's left-wing president Rafael Correa this year kicked out a mid-ranking US diplomat.